International Advisory Board
The Encyclopedia of Earth
From 1998 to 2004 Dr. Rita Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Under Dr. Colwell's leadership, the National Science Foundation budget grew by over 68 percent, surpassing US$5 billion for the first time in 2003, and the agency was recognized for excellence in both science and management. During her tenure, she oversaw a major increase in the Foundation's support for environmental research and education through such initiatives as the interdisciplinary priority area on Biocomplexity in the Environment.
Upon her departure from NSF, Dr. Colwell became Chairman of Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., a newly created Washington-based subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc. whose goal is to identify and develop life-science solutions with potential applications in diagnostics and medical instrumentation. She also currently serves as Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and on the faculty of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In this latter position she will help develop a new international center for the study of infectious diseases, water, and health.
Dr. Colwell has co-authored 16 books and over 600 scientific publications, and has received many awards, including the Medal of Distinction from Columbia University; the Gold Medal of Charles University, Prague; the UCLA Medal from the University of California, Los Angeles; and the Alumna Summa Laude Dignata from the University of Washington, Seattle. She was awarded the United States' highest scientific honor, the National Medal for Science, in July 2007.
Dr. Colwell has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology and also as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Microbiology, the Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Colwell also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Council for Science and the Environment.
Dr. Colwell holds a B.S. in Bacteriology and an M.S. in Genetics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington.